LIKE MILLIONS OF FANS of violent confrontations, your columnist, several music industryites and a few writer cronies gathered before a television set last week to watch the heavyweight championship fight between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield.
Between trips to the refrigerator, we took in the relentless pounding, low blows and bleeding, and noticed a striking similarity between the unabating pugilistic carnage and the music industry, where relentless pounding, low blows and bleeding are everyday facts of life, particularly in promotion departments.
A few more trips to the refrigerator soon led us to ponder: Wouldn’t it be great to rent a barge and stage a charity boxing event that would allow the industry’s gentlemen and women to settle their grievances by the rules of the Marquis of Queensbury?
Thus was spawned the following matchups, all based on actual (or rumored) enmity between the parties. Don King, are you listening?
n MCA Music chairman Al Teller vs. Motown president/CEO Jheryl Busby: This potential slugfest between two of the key players in the MCA/Motown dispute is coming to a courtroom near you in spring ’93. The only stumbling block: Busby has a well-known problem answering the bell, according to everyone who ever tried to get a phone call returned.
n Warner Music Group chairman Robert Morgado vs. Warner Bros. Records chairman Mo Ostin: Rumored to be feuding over Bette Midler (Ostin allegedly wants her signed to Warner Bros.; Morgado allegedly doesn’t want a big-bucks deal), the two former accountants both have plodding, flat-footed styles. But these experienced corporate brawlers could be expected to go the distance.
n Atlantic Records co-chairman/CEO Doug Morris vs. National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences president Mike Greene: This one goes back to last year , when Atlantic pulled out of the Grammys to protest best new artist nominee Marc Cohn’s exclusion from the live show. This battle may not happen, though, because the camps can’t agree whether to hold the fight in an arena or a smaller venue.
n Former Sony Music CEO Walter Yetnikoff vs. current Sony Music USA CEO Tommy Mottola: Trace this back to the “Hit Men”-inspired downfall of Yetnikoff. These are two street fighters who would prefer an alley to a ring. Yetnikoff has been out of boxing for some time and may show signs of ring rust, allowing the aggressive Mottola to score inside. Also, Mottola has beaten Yetnikoff once, which may boost his confidence.
n Billboard senior talent writer Chris Morris vs. Hits senior editor Roy Trakin: Two of the most acerbic scribes in the business take each other on in a war of words. Cutting remarks could stop it early.
n BAM editor Bill Holdship vs. Billboard editor-in-chief Timothy White: The battle for the soul of Brian Wilson. Holdship has Dr. Eugene Landy in his corner to help with strategy, and may need the good doctor’s advice to distinguish the bow-tied White from the referee.
n A proposed tag-team match: The members of Slash recording artists L7 vs. writer Deborah Frost. Concerns a not-so-flattering article on the band done by Frost, a pioneering female rocker/journalist whose assignment editor believed she would bond with the band. Big mistake. Frost, who claims she can bench-press more weight than any male rock writer, would be one tough customer. L7 may try to pretend they’re dead, though, and catch Frost with a sucker punch.
LAST MAY, ARISTA RECORDS weathered a tough period, laying off some staffers and generally struggling to generate some chart juice. We reported that the label would lose a lot of money during its fiscal year, which ended June 30.
What a difference a few months makes: Arista executive VP/general manager Roy Lott took time out from his meeting schedule with company chairman Clive Davis this week to point with pride and not a little vindication to the raging success currently running rampant at the label.
Arista is officially nuclear, with six singles in the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart top 40, including Snap’s “Rhythm Is a Dancer” and TLC’s “What About Your Friends” snugly in the top-10. Plus, Whitney Houston’s new single “I Will Always Love You” (from her film “The Bodyguard”) has just been certified platinum, with five more new Houston songs yet to come from the soundtrack album.
While Arista’s traditional strength has been at Top 40, the company is also doing it in the album sales department, boasting five discs in the Billboard 200 chart top 40–music by Brooks & Dunn, TLC, Alan Jackson, Annie Lennox and the soundtrack to the film “Boomerang.”
Albums by Kenny G and Expose should add to the hit parade in the weeks to come.